Karen Overstreet, Claesgens, Mark A. | 7/20/2007 11:26:05 PM
Back-to-school time always brings out mixed emotions. Students are excited to see their friends and get back into a comfortable routine but not looking forward to studying and the confines of a school day.
Parents, too, have mixed emotions, according to LSU AgCenter family resource management specialist Dr. Karen Overstreet. Back-to-school usually means a more hectic pace but also provides a structure to the daily routine that is often missing in the summer.
"Even families that have participated in numerous summer camps, athletic leagues and other actives sometimes find the transition to the daily routine difficult," Overstreet said, noting that how parents and caregivers treat back-to-school time has a major effect on how children handle it.
The old adage, "more lessons are caught than taught" certainly applies, according to the family expert. If parents constantly complain about how much school supplies cost, continually mumble about what they see as unrealistic expectations or make disparaging remarks about this year’s teachers, students soon catch on that school is a nuisance to be endured.
Similarly, parents who treat school as if it were a babysitting service and are not engaged in any parental activities send the message that school isn’t important enough for them to be bothered with. Even though everything isn’t always perfect, and school clothes and supplies can be expensive, how parents handle these issues can make a big impression on their children.
Talk with your children about the coming school year – not a big talk the night before school starts but casually through the summer, Overstreet advises.
If you already have a school supply list, let your children pick out a few items each time you go shopping; then create a special place to keep the supplies until school actually starts. Let children decorate a box to hold their new supplies so it feels like theirs. Purchasing a little at a time is easier on the budget and putting them away until the appropriate time makes them seem more special.
Involve your children in finding solutions for potential issues. Do the youngsters have difficulty getting up in the mornings? Together, talk about creating a bedtime routine that will help them go to sleep earlier; or let them pick out new alarm clocks so they can get up on his own.
If space doesn’t allow a private place for homework, create a homework caddy from a soft drink six pack or similar carton. Put a juice or similar can in each section, and let your child decorate the carton and cans. Load the caddy with pencils, pens, rulers, erasers, a pocket dictionary and other supplies commonly needed.
The caddy can be taken to the kitchen table or other homework spot, then stored in a cupboard or closet when not in use. Having supplies together in one place makes homework time more efficient, and letting your child create it makes it more likely it will be used.
Share appropriate stories of your own school experiences with your child. It’s okay to let your child know that you had fears at time or occasionally had difficulty as long as you also talk about how you overcame the problems. Often, a child’s reluctance about going back to school stems from unrecognized fears. Knowing that others are sometimes afraid along with how they dealt with their fears can be reassuring.
Overstreet encourages turning back-to-school time into a celebration at your house by establishing a tradition that children look forward to every year. It might be having pizza for breakfast on the first day or an annual back-to-school sleepover two days before the big day. Try to keep the evening before the first day relatively calm so that it’s easier for children to settle down at bedtime. Then, once they’re asleep you can quietly celebrate that the kids are soon back in school!
For related family topics, click on the Family and Home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.